Japan has a secret destination. Beyond technology-focused Tokyo and temple-laden Kyoto, you’ll find Akō: a city in in Hyōgo, on Japan’s southwestern coast along the Inland Sea. It has a long history as a seaside resort, drawing in guests for its famous theatre productions and annual samurai festival.
Boasting a historic castle, rejuvenating hot springs, breathtaking views and expansive parks, this is the perfect destination for a romantic trip, family vacation or solo getaway.
Here are 16 attractions that will convince you to visit Akō as soon as travel is recommended again:
Highlights: Did someone say, “hot springs”?
When booking accommodation in Akō, this should be your first choice for a luxurious retreat. Stay in a Japanese-style room with low tables and beautiful wooden touches. Soaking in the natural onsen (hot springs) creates a relaxing atmosphere at Ginpaso. The open-air bath provides fantastic views of the sea, with water cascading over the side like an infinity pool. The water blends into the sky and sea, offering a scenic view that is especially striking at sunset. After soaking in the baths, enjoy a kaiseki-style dinner (a multi-course meal traditionally presented to royal nobles) at the hotel's restaurant featuring fresh fish and locally sourced seafood.
Insider tip: Request to stay in the "Tenku" room on the sixth floor to enjoy your own private hot spring bath.
Kariya Ryokan Q
Highlights: A highly rated ryokan in the middle of Akō City
Wow—this guesthouse is beautiful. The Kariya Ryokan Q is a traditional ryokan (inn) with modern elements to cater to international travellers. It’s located right in the heart of Akō, close to sightseeing destinations and Banshu Akō Station. The rooms feature cozy, comfortable beds. When you’re done exploring, set aside some time to sit and relax in the onsite cozy Japanese garden.
Highlights: Stay at this stylish hotel for views of the sea, modern art and fresh seafood
Ready for a beach escape? You’ll find a stone beach right next to the hotel Imaiso. It boasts a laid-back, stylish atmosphere.
Choose from two styles of rooms; both are vast and beautifully designed. After a long day of sightseeing, relax in the bathtub and gaze through large windows at the tranquil sea.
On the first floor, you’ll find a friendly beach café featuring art pieces by the Okinawan artist Umehara Ryu, who visits to the hotel each year to paint one of the walls.
For dinner, enjoy seasonal seafood: winter means oyster dishes; spring and summer are best for rice and fish tempura.
Iwatsuhime Shrine and Kira Kira Zaka
Highlights: History and views make this the perfect date spot
The Iwatsuhime Shrine has been around since the Heian period (794 to 1185) and was moved to its current position, right next to the sea, in 1683. During the Russo-Japanese War, a general of the Imperial Japanese Navy came to this shrine to pray for victory. Today, many people come here to pray for safe travels and successful fishing.
This shrine has a gorgeous view of the Seto Inland Sea, making it a popular dating spot. Bring your partner and purchase charms for “en-musubi” (good luck in relationships). To extend the date, walk down the Kirakira Saka (Glistening Slope), admiring small cafes and accessory shops.
Osake Shrine and Myokenji Temple
Highlights: Visit the most important shrine in Sakōshi and a temple halfway up the mountain
History abounds in Akō, and Osake Shrine is no exception. The current main hall dates to 1769. Hata Kawakatsu, a powerful figure of the 6th and 7th century, was enshrined as a Shinto deity after his death. Hakata Kawakatsu's grave is located on Ikushima Island in Sakōshi Bay, which is part of Osake Shrine. Visitors are not allowed on the island, and the forest has been designated a natural monument.
Halfway up Chausuyama you will find Myokenji Temple. In 1722, the Kannon Hall of the temple was built. It houses a statue of Kannon Bosatsu, the Bodhisattva of compassion. Once again, you’ll find striking views of Sakōshi Bay.
Highlights: History buffs will love this street with preserved buildings
If you’re looking for an example of the townscape of old Japan, check out the preserved buildings of Machinami street in Sakōshi. It’s a great spot for history buffs and photographers. Beautiful traditional buildings have been transformed into tourist information centres and museums.
The Okuto Sake Brewery was founded in 1601 and still produces Japanese rice wine. You can buy the sake at their small shop and visit their museum, Okuto Shuzo Kyodo-kan.
The Kyu Sakōshiura Kaisho was built in the 1830s as a meeting place for law enforcement and administrative work. Now it is a museum and offers the chance to see how such a historic building looks from the inside.
Oishi Shrine and Akō Castle Remains
Highlights: Learn about the remains of Akō Castle and a shrine dedicated to the heroes of the city
Originally built in the mid-17th century, during a time of relative peace, the castle features stone walls and white turrets. It was tactically built, preparing for an actual war. In the spring, stunning views of cherry blossoms add touches of colour among the ruins.
Located in the centre of the city, visitors will also find the Honmaru and Ninomaru Gardens and the Oishi Shrine here. This shrine is historically significant because it is dedicated to the 47 Ronin (masterless samurai).
Akō History Museum
Highlights: Small museum about the history of Akō City
The Akō City Museum of History contains four permanent exhibitions: the history of salt production of Akō City; Akō Castle and its castle town; the story of the famous 47 Ronin; old waterworks in Akō. There is an English pamphlet available so you can learn about the history of Akō.
Country of Salt and Marine Science Museum
Highlights: Learn more about the history of salt production in Akō and experience making your own salt
Akō’s reputation is engrained in salt. In the 1600s, the city became nationally famous for its salt production. Visit the outdoor Country of Salt museum at the Akō Seaside Park to learn more about the traditional way of producing salt from seawater. Visitors can try salt-making themselves and take a sample home. Next door is the Marine Science Museum. Here, you can find supplemental information about salt, salt production in Akō, the Seto Inland Sea and local fauna.
Akō Ramen Menbo
Highlights: Dine on the best local Ramen close to the station
Akō Ramen Menbo has been serving some of the best local ramen for a long time. The main shop can be found on the second floor of the mall, connected to the railway station.
Akō has a long history of salt production, so it should come as no surprise that this ramen restaurant specializes in shio ramen, a variety of the popular noodle dish based on a salty broth. It’s lighter in taste than miso or pork bone-based ramen and comes topped with nori seaweed, fermented bamboo shoots, spring onions and thinly sliced simmered pork. If you’d like, there are more toppings and variations to choose from, such as soy sauce or miso ramen.
Highlights: Grill oysters by the sea
Oysters are on the menu at Kuidoraku, a casual restaurant located at the port of Sakōshi. You can try oysters year-round, but winter is the best time for local oysters.
A neat experience is grilling the oysters yourself on your table or order some of the many oyster dishes they serve. To try many different oyster dishes, order the Sakōshi Gozen: deep-fried oysters, oysters marinated in vinegar, oysters in a miso hot pot, oysters steamed in their shell and oysters in egg custard, together with sashimi, miso soup, pickled vegetables and a bowl of rice.
After your dinner, stop by the small market next door to pick up fresh seafood to cook yourself.
Highlights: 50 years of history guarantees exquisite food
This family-run restaurant uses carefully selected local produce, including fresh fish and vegetables. There is only one counter to eat at, providing an intimate experience. This allows the chef to prepare each part of the multi-course meal with the utmost care and much love for each detail. It’s worth the wait for such a personalized dinner.
Akō Seaside Park
Highlights: A big park with many facilities, especially for kids
In 1987, the Akō Seaside Park opened. It’s a spacious park with an artificial lake that was created with locals and visitors from other areas in mind. There is plenty to do, especially for families with kids—don’t miss the amusement park WakuWaku Land with a Ferris wheel, go-carts and more. Children will love the obstacle courses and vast playground featuring a “sunken” pirate ship, log and rope climbing structure and super long slide.
There are paddleboats to rent on the large lake and a nearby campground. The Marine Science Museum is also located in the park.
Otsuka Kaigan and Higashi Misakō Observatory Square
Highlights: Unwind with a stroll along the rocky coast
Starting at Kirakira Saka, take a leisurely stroll on a paved path along the rocky coast to the Otsuka Kaigan area, a popular fishing spot.
From here, you can walk up to Higashi Misakō Observatory Square. You’ll discover great views of the sea and Shodoshima Island. The area is especially attractive in spring when nearly 2,000 cherry trees are in full bloom. Enjoy the beautiful color contrast of the pale pink blossoms and the dark blue sea.
Sekibutsu Junrei trail, Chausuyama
Highlights: Get your heart pounding by hiking this trail to the top of Chausuyama
Adventure travellers should hike up Chausuyama from Myokenji on the Sekibutsu Junrei trail. Along the way, you’ll spot stone statues of Jizo Bosatsu, who protects travelers. Once you reach the top of Chausuyama, you’ll be able to bask in fantastic views of Sakōshi Bay and Ikushima Island. To the west, the Chikusagawa river and Akō City fill the scene.
Highlights: Get your heart pounding for great views of Akō City
Most people can hike the 253 metres up to Otakayama in less than one hour. It’s a steep, fast climb that rewards hikers with the best view of Akō City. This is a great experience for your last day in Akō—it’s close to the train station, so you can leave the city after your hike.
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